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Google, Pepsi, and PopCorners Make Big Impressions with 2023 Super Bowl Ads

Exclusive research shows that humor, nostalgia and celebrity cameos most helped brands boost favorability this year

While we at Unruly had already called the Big Game for Rihanna well before the end of the 4th quarter, there were certainly other winners in Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII, on the field but also…in the commercial breaks.

With our UnrulyEQ tool, which measures consumer response to advertising so that brands can more effectively land brand metrics, we are excited to share our annual exclusive research into the most emotionally engaging ads of the show.

Our analysis covered the emotional responses of over 2,500 consumers in the US to 17 major commercials, ranking the most popular based on their emotional, social and business impact, as well as grading them against the average emotional response to advertisements in the market. The intensity of emotions viewers felt while watching the ad, brand favorability and recall, authenticity and purchase intent all contributed to an ad’s final score.

We found that this year’s ads were especially poignant and compelling, exceeding the average EQ score. Our research suggests that marketers were successful at charming US viewers with celebrity cameos (too many to name), poking fun at the tired office cliché of high achievers as “rockstars” (Workday) and wowing with the ability to erase ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends and speedo-wearing geezers from photos (Google Pixel). The streaming platforms got in on the action as well, with high scoring ads from Paramount Plus and Netflix, who partnered with General Motors to imagine Will Ferrell in guest appearances spanning Bridgerton, Squid Game and beyond.

Overall, of the ads we tested the most engaging were:

Specifically, our findings showed that:

  • Better than your average ad: The average EQ Score of the Super Bowl ads was 5.3, notably higher than the US norm of 5.0 and out of a total possible 10
  • Google Pixel took the top spot in this year’s overall EQ ranking, closely followed by Pepsi and PopCorners
  • Different approaches: Bud Light scored highly for Happiness and Warmth, Google Pixel and Pepsi for Amazement and Surprise, and PopCorners, Michelob and Busch Light for Hilarity
  • Hellmann’s and M&M’s scored particularly well in the Purchase Intent category

Google Pixel’s ad, ‘#fixedonpixel’ was the top performer, outranking all in the survey. The ad highlights customers – including celebrity guests Amy Schumer and Doja Cat – using Google’s photo editing tools. Receiving high marks in the Happiness, Amazement and Surprise categories, it also scored superlatively in the Purchase Intent and Finding Out More categories, suggesting that this ad will go far in demand generation.

A popular choice for advertisers was the use of celebrities and beloved movie characters, including some we haven’t heard from in a few decades (Our hearts skipped a beat to see Alicia Silverstone and Elisa Donovan reprise their critically acclaimed roles as high school debaters in Clueless for Rakuten).

Other brands lent on nostalgia as well, including Pepsi with Ben Stiller as Zoolander, T Mobile with John Travolta and Grease, and PopCorners by bringing Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul back to hawk addictive but more legal treats than they did on the show. 

Additionally, celebrities were also utilized out of place to elicit humor. Examples of this include Ozzie Osbourne as an office worker (Workday) and Sarah McLachlan as a survivalist (Busch Light).

The full UnrulyEQ report on 2023 Super Bowl ads is available for request.